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«Uluslararası Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi The Journal of International Social Research Cilt: 7 Sayı: 32 Volume: 7 Issue: 32 ...»

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Uluslararası Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi

The Journal of International Social Research

Cilt: 7 Sayı: 32 Volume: 7 Issue: 32

www.sosyalarastirmalar.com Issn: 1307-9581





Conceptual Theory of Metaphor (CTM), first proposed by Lakoff and Johnson

(1980), is an approach to metaphor which releases it from the bounds of language and

instead places it in the domain of cognition. According to this approach, metaphor and cognition are in a bilateral relationship, that is, each metaphor has a cognitive basis and conceptualization in the mind mostly takes place via metaphors. In this regard, the main function of metaphor is to lay ground for talking about one concept in terms of another concept. In this process, some features of one conceptual domain (source domain) which is mostly concrete are transferred to another domain (target domain) which is mostly abstract.

Since metaphor is among the widely used tropes in literary discourse, CTM can be used for analyzing the role of metaphors in such discourse. Relative to other approaches, this approach can provide a better explanation for the presence of different metaphorical structures in literary texts. On the basis of this, the present article aims to investigate the role of animal metaphors in King Lear from the viewpoints of traditional rhetoric and CTM and show the advantages of the latter over the former for explaining the role of metaphorical structures in contributing to the coherence of this play.

Keywords: Metaphor, Conceptual Theory of Metaphor, Traditional Rhetoric, Animal Metaphors, King Lear.

1. Metaphor: Traditional and non-traditional approaches

1.1. The Rhetorical Device Metaphors have been used through hundreds and even thousands of years of human civilization so that human beings communicate with one another more effectively and more accurately. It is believed that the use of metaphor is not restricted to poetic language, but exists all over our daily lives. Metaphor comes from the Greek word meta meaning “over,” and pherein meaning “to carry.” It refers to a particular set of linguistic processes where aspects of one object are carried over or transferred to another object, so that the second object is spoken of as if it were the first one (Hawkes, 1972: 1). Aristotle considers it to a sign of genius to be a master of metaphor “since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilarities” (Poetics 1459 a 5-8).

Ortony (1993: 3) argues that “any serious study of metaphor is almost obliged to start with the works of Aristotle”. Aristotle's views have influenced most of the traditional approaches to metaphor.

· MA of Translation Studies, University of Isfahan.

- 118 Traditional theories of metaphor distinguish two terms within a metaphor, the target or tenor and the vehicle or source. The target is the term that receives a literal interpretation;

the vehicle creates the metaphorical relation. Metaphors are thus characterized by the specific relation between target and vehicle.

Aristotle’s treatment of the phenomenon is not only the oldest, but vividly the most influential one. His definition of metaphor appears first in Poetics and receives further notice in Rhetoric. Aristotle believes metaphor to be a rhetorical device. He specifies the categorical relations between vehicle and target, resulting in four specific types of metaphor. The first three types of metaphor are devices in which one word is replaced with another, but the last

one has a different nature. He defines these types as:

(1) From genus to species (2) From species to genus (3) From one species to another (4) In the way of analogy.

In contemporary approaches some of these types are not considered metaphors; for instance, the first two types are known as synecdoche, and the third could be considered as metonymy. Further, the focus has shifted from the structure of the metaphor to its interpretation.

Aristotle’s analysis in the Poetic deals mainly with the structural relations between the terms in a metaphor; what these relations refer to are not discussed. Aristotle’s thoughts on metaphor are known to be the motivation behind many of the existing interpretations of metaphor which deal with different concerns of this phenomenon such as the nature and functioning of metaphor, or the processes of metaphor recognition and interpretation.

Scholars such as Cicero, Quintilian and Vico view metaphor suitable for ornamenting language or comparing things, but not qualified for analytic thought. Like Aristotle, both Cicero and Quintilian have discussed metaphor in terms of style as a figurative device. Both writers viewed metaphor as a shorter form of simile. Cicero believed that what made metaphor in the first place was necessity and only later it became a way of giving excellence to a speech. “Necessity,” he said “was the parent (of metaphorical speech) compelled by the sterility and narrowness of language; but afterwards delight and pleasure made it frequent” (Buck, 1899: 2). Cicero held that in order to ornament a speech in terms of vocabulary one can use rare words, new coinages or metaphors.

Later, Quintilian concludes that we use this figure “sometimes perforce, but sometimes with a view to significance or force of expression” (Buck, 1899: 3). Further, he argued that the change from a simple to metaphorical word is made because it is either necessary or because it helps to embellish a speech. He declared that “metaphor has been invented for the purpose of exciting the mind, giving a character to things, and setting them before the eye” (Buck, 1899: 24).

1.2. The Cognitive Process It was not until 1960s and 1970s with the work of Max Black that scholars began discovering the conceptual nature of metaphor. Until this time, the theoretical view on the nature and function of metaphor had been based on the thought that metaphor is essentially a rhetorical device. In the contemporary theory metaphor occupies a central role both in thought and the development of language.

A shared disapproval of traditional view of metaphor as a figurative device can be observed in the thoughts of scholars recognizing metaphor as a conceptual process. Richards (1936) has argued against the traditional views of metaphor, stating that metaphors are present in all human discourse. He (1936: 93) notes that “in the simplest formulation, when we

- 119 use a metaphor we have two thoughts of different things acting together and supported by a single word, or phrase, whose meaning is a resultant of their interaction”. Richards emphasizes that the main use of metaphor is to extend language and, since language is reality, to expand reality. Reddy (1979) agrees with Richards’ views, saying that we attempt to understand one another from our own views of reality. For him, communication is essentially metaphorical, making metaphor a natural tool of communication.

Gibbs’ (1994: 2) remark that figurative language has been “traditionally viewed as the tool of poets and politicians” is an example of the criticism on traditional approach to metaphor. Also, Turner (1987: 16) holds that discussions on metaphor are based on “a supposed definition of metaphor” that establishes similarity. According to Searle (1979), metaphor represents a class of linguistic expression that says one thing and means another;

thus, resembling cases of irony and indirect speech acts. A characteristic of all such types of linguistic expression is that the literal utterance is in some sense “defective”, they have “obvious falsehood, semantic nonsense, violation of the rules of speech acts, or violations of conventional principles of communication” (Levin, 1988: 112). Moreover, Leech (1981) believes that a metaphor is a form of linguistic deviation. These deviations from linguistic or other socially adopted names have been given the special name of foregrounding. The foregrounding figure is the linguistic deviation, and the background is the language.

Theorists like Goodman (1968), Searle (1979), and Nunberg (2002) have rejected the classical distinctions among different forms of figurative language. Instead, they treat metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche as a single unified phenomenon. They do not question metaphor’s effectiveness, only the means by which its effects are achieved. The central claim of these theorists is that a sentence used metaphorically has no distinctive cognitive content aside from its literal content.

2. Traditional Analysis of Animal Metaphors in King Lear The term imagery has been adopted to refer to metaphor or figures closely related to metaphor by writers discussing Shakespeare’s tragedies (Ellis-Fermer, 1980). Ellis-Fermer (1980: 94) believes that metaphor, being almost inseparable from poetic expression, must find some place in poetic drama and thus, as the art matures, be drawn into closer and closer functional relation”. Based on Spurgeon (1935), the most important images are those which contribute to the overall meaning of an individual play. It must be noted that she uses the term “image” as an umbrella term that covers both metaphor and simile.

In poetic drama imagery enriches the content of the play. One of the functions of imagery is revealing the underlying mood of the work in question, intertwining different parts, and in this, emphasizing the idea or the mood that the poet has chosen for the play.

Ellis-Fermer (1980: 85) urges that this function must be present in any poetic drama considered as a work of art: “the main preoccupation of the poet’s mind must be revealed in greater or less degree by all the aspects of the play that is the issue of the preoccupation”. In this regard, Samuel Taylor Coleridge has famously referred to Shakespeare as “myriad-minded” emphasizing that “the body and substance of his works came out of the unfathomable depths of his own oceanic mind” (Punter, 2007: 13).

Imagery functions as a tool in poetic drama to bring forth to the notice the revelation of character. Each of Shakespeare’s characters has his individual imagery which is ultimately related to the theme of the play. In this, the characters reveal themselves by their instinctive choice of subjects in which to image their thought, by the form of the image, and often also by the relation between subject and theme.

The animal images present in the play demonstrate how negative qualities in man can degenerate him from human status to that of animals and beasts. Each character in the tragedy is associated with certain types of animals. Goneril  whose heartless ingratitude seems to be most disturbing for Lear  is compared to sea-monster, fox, wolf, vulture, serpent, … all of

- 120 which are animals known for their ferociousness and preying. Goneril is a “detested kite” in her father’s eyes, a bird of prey which according to Onions (1980) is used here to show her as a rapacious person.

The metaphors that are used by Lear toward Goneril suggest her savage and unnatural behavior in respect to her father: she is one of the “pelican daughters”, the bird that was believed to feed his young with its blood (Schmidt, 1971:849); reinforcing the idea of her ingratitude further. She is called a “she-fox” by her father, an animal that is known to be sly and cruel. Even her own husband, the Duke of Albany, is appalled by her merciless behavior, calling her and Regan “Tigers, not daughters” to vivify how unacceptable and barbarous such behaviors are to those still maintaining their human status.

Another character of the play, Oswald, is also dehumanized by others to the level of animals: in his rage Lear calls him mongrel, dog, and cur for calling him “My lady's father” not the King. Using this type of imagery and comparing Oswald to lower animals, both his social status and his treachery is emphasized upon. Further, he is called a “wagtail” by Kent which is a opprobrious term for a bobbing or obsequious person (Onions, 1980: 244), and a “goose” which is a reference to his coward behavior in “Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool? Goose, and I had you upon Sarum plain, I'd drive ye cackling home to Camelot” (II. ii.


The chaos in Lear’s world is a by-product of his own faults: it is initiated by his misjudgments, empowered by his wrath and rage, and spirals down to his fall by his alienation from the human world. The disastrous outcome of this situation  his madness  is artfully illuminated through the images others (especially the fool) employ in regard to him.

McCloskey indicates that the Fool's bitter statement, “For you know, nuncle, The hedgesparrow fed the cuckoo so long, That it had it head bit off by it young” (I. iv. 234-236) is not only a sharp and crude image of ingratitude, but it is also an image of Lear's own foolishness, his misjudgment, his improvident helplessness, and his egoistic blindness (1962: 322).

Additionally, the imagery of the snail and the oyster carries to the lowest pitch of figurative expression the blindness of Lear, his lack of judgment, the low order of the ratiocination from which proceeded his initial error (McCloskey, 1962: 323).

Clemen, (1966) believes that the increase of images in Lear’s speech through the acts is a result of his being isolated in the human world; consequently, throwing him back upon himself. As he proceeds through these stages the imagery becomes coordinated by his emotional and mental status. Lear’s metaphors suggest an obsession with the act of ingratitude. This notion of ingratitude and callousness comes best to life in the serpent metaphor: “that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child!” (I.iv.290-291).

Knight (1964) discusses how the emphatic use of animal images running through the play suggests a contrast between actions of humans and the natural world in terms of ethics.

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